Towards a Neo-cosmetic Humanitarianism: Refugee Self-reliance as a Social-cohesion Regime in Lebanon’s Halba (December, 2019)

https://academic.oup.com/jrs/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jrs/fez083/5686415?guestAccessKey=e4723362-7099-4f7c-b004-4066dde039f8&fbclid=IwAR1ZQzuTyqQs88J33TGnZKfbeA35IndU7paBiQBiFbw97-L_H89RFagsqHo

Abstract

This article focuses on Syrian-refugee self-reliance and humanitarian efforts meant to foster it in Halba, northern Lebanon. I argue that humanitarian livelihood programming is ‘neo-cosmetic’, as the skills refugees acquire through humanitarian programmes turn out to be little more than a cosmetic accessory. While the humanitarian apparatus deliberately limits its action in order not to challenge host economies, the acquired skills do not practically enhance refugees’ possibility to be employed. Instead, refugee self-reliance is reconfigured as the ‘inter-ethnic promotion of host stability’. Relatedly, I propose that the aim of implementing social cohesion in multi-ethnic areas reveals a new ethnicization of care within the humanitarian system. Within this framework, the citizen practice of running hardware stores on a permanent basis coexists with the temporariness of refugee livelihood practices. Lastly, I rethink social membership in a refugee–host setting by adopting a practice-based approach to the research subjects in an effort to challenge the ethnic definitions of social groups and other pre-established forms of belonging.

 

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